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Yair Rodriguez vs. Jeremy Stephens: UFC Fight Night 159

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UFC Fight Night 159: Stephens vs. Rodriguez

Special to Chicago’s MMA

Mexico City will hold an amazing UFC Fight Night event on Saturday, September 21.

Yair Rodriguez and Jeremy Stephens, and Alexa Grasso and Carla Esparza will enter the octagon as the main events for an action-packed card. The UFC odds have Rodriguez and Stephens evenly matched, and it seems that the public agrees, with just slightly more placing wagers on Jeremy Stephens, though not enough to shift the lines. Alexa Grasso, on the other hand, is a slight favorite over the American, Carla Esparza.

Rodriguez vs. Stephens

Jeremy Stephens may not be a household name like Connor McGregor, Khabib, or Nate Diaz, but he has a whopping 44 professional MMA fights to his name. And he fought recently under the big lights of UFC 235 but took a loss to Zabit Magomedsharipov.

Yair Rodriguez is coming off a win against the Korean Zombie, but that was back in November of 2018, nearly a full year ago. Before that, he had his eight-fight win-streak ruptured by Frankie Edgar in May of 2017, which came after extended time off. When we look at his wins, they come when he is fighting regularly – two times per year-ish. So, will we see a thick layer of oxidization now that he again is encroaching that year mark?

Jeremy Stephens fought in March of this year but was slowly picked apart by the precision of Zabit Magomendsharipov. The loss marked two in a row, as he lost to Jose Aldo in July of 2018. That said, he won three straight before the Aldo loss, following a loss to Renato Moicano. If there is one thing working against Rodriguez in this matchup, is Stephens penchant for brawling. Rodriguez doesn’t have the patience of Moicano or Zabit and will get drawn into a slug-fest. One of the common denominators in Jeremy Stephens’ losses is distance management and precision striking.

Once the blood gets pumping, Yair Rodriguez is likely to start swinging for the fences, which plays into Stephens’ style. 19 of Jeremy Stephens’ 28 wins have come by way of knockout. Only 2 of his 11 losses have come by KO, TKO, 11 of them coming by decision.

So what we have is a featherweight with a good chin and knockout potential. Yair, on the other hand, only has 4 wins by KO. And both of his losses have come by KO and TKO. Frankie Edgar pounded him so badly that the fight doctor had to stop the fight, and Robert Herrera straight knocked him out.

With a fighter like Stephens, we could easily see something similar to the Frankie Edgar situation. If Yair Rodriguez wins, it will most likely come by way of decision. I don’t see him having the kind of power needed to knock out a guy like Stephens. Conversely, if Stephens wins, it will most likely come by way of KO or TKO.

Mexico has a lot riding on Yair Rodriguez. He is the great hype for the Mexican UFC expansion. So the pressure may get to him. But all in all, we should expect a flashy brawl of a fight. Stephens has been trying to reel it in and fight smarter, but 25 minutes is a long time. So I expect the strategy of both fighters to go out the window at some point, probably in the 3rd round, if not earlier.

Someone will get caught by a fight-changing shot shortly after the fight degrades into a slug-out.

 

About Matt Lo Cascio

Matt Lo Cascio is a former TV producer who turned to new media in 2005, and he is the co-founder and editor of Chicago's MMA. He is also the play-by-play announcer for the XFO. His work has been published by ESPN.com, DraftKings, The Comeback, FanSided and more.

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